Border Buster 2017

Copelj26Copelj26 ChicagoSenior Member

As I look along here, I noticed there was not really a report on the “Border Buster”, there are documents on Lake Memphremagog but nothing direct on this swim.

So where do I start on this, well I chose this as my longest swim to date at 25km versus Key West in 2016 at 20km and having come from my first open water event in over a decade in 2013 with a 5km in Big Shoulders.

This swim excited me, Vermont looked beautiful and I was lucky enough to meet Phil at Swim the Suck in 2016.

Due to this excitement, my swim planning kicked off pretty well and stayed consistent with more than 50+ miles a month Jan to June. I felt pretty good going in to the event.

In bringing my Kayaker “James”, both my wife and his wife decided that Vermont looked pretty enough that they would like to join us on this trip. So the plan became a 6 day vacation and a 1000 mile drive from Chicago. The drive went well until my Kayaker had a back spasm and my wife had an allergic reaction to something. On plus side this was a nice distraction from the swim (do not tell them I said so). Once we hit Vermont it was as beautiful as we had hoped though James got to see nothing as he was laying in the back of the car.

On arriving in Newport I dumped the passengers at the Air BnB and went straight to the lake to dip my feet and look North. It's a very pretty lake surrounded by green luscious mountains/hills.

The following day I took my first actual swim and stretched out the arms with a couple of miles and also got James doped up on muscle relaxants from the local VA hospital.

We then took part in all the extracurricular that Phil organized with the Pizza boat party and the day before the race the course cruise and safety meeting and picking up my "No lanes, No lines, No limits" sweater.

Finally the day of the event. Up at 4.00am, check, double check, triple check we have everything. Dope up the kayaker again, arrive at the beach so that James can have first pick of Kayaks with one that hopefully will minimize his back pain. Slather on the sun screen, the zinc, the Vaseline. Place the Irish flag in my goggle strap so that James can find me. Wait for the fog to lift and its go time.

As usual, I hate the first 30 mins of any event, that is when I realize I am still much closer to the beginning, I have not found my rhythm etc. and have the most self-doubts, It does not seem to matter if I am swimming 3km or 25km, this is the struggle part for me. I Get through this to the first feed (one feed at a time), ask James how he is doing and then finally start to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery (during the feeds). Start to think about the fact I will be "soonish" crossing an international border while swimming for the first time and hoping ICE don't come for me. Surprisingly take a look around at the other swimmers who weirdly enough have not spread out as much as I usually expect. Head back down and keep swimming.

This all went fine until somewhere between mile 4 and 5 as we approach/enter Canada, I have a weird moment, I was in a very Calm/Zen spot and admittedly kind of day dreaming when I suddenly jolt upright in the water, not sure if I 1) Nodded off briefly 2) passed out briefly or 3) just got really disorientated. To this day this is still up for debate. Anyway spoke to James asked him to watch me closely for the next few minutes and then continued on. We hit the turn point in Canada and started heading across the lake to the other side. This is the other section that I struggled on, I got confused with the map in my head and how long it seemed to be taking to get to the next buoy to go around the islands. It took me a while to clear my brain again and work out the math that we were still right on our expected schedule. So we continued. James struggled a little with some of the buoys around the islands but we figured keep heading south and we should be good was the motto.

We kept a look out for 6A buoy and to keep it to our right and the water grass field. We eventually came across the water grass and I resisted the urge to reach down and use it to propel myself forward. James I think at this point popped some more muscle relaxers.

We continued from here to aim at the gap between the 2 sides of the lake through the water grass fields. Based on the GPS we apparently kept a pretty straight line on this and eventually made it to the gap area. At this point some annoying chop started hitting from behind. It was nothing excessive, nothing like lake Michigan but was enough to be putting my stroke off.

With about a mile to go, I did make a poor decision. I decided I would drink the can of red bull that I had put in the kayak, this was a change to my Tailwind Nutrition that I had used for the rest of the swim and the Shotz. It was a bad idea, I immediately felt "bloatie", I chose not to share this fact with anyone prior to now, as it was just a dumb decision by me. After about 10 mins, I had to stop again and ask for some plain old water. However that seemed to do the trick and I have learnt that Red Bull (it’s my coffee) is not a good idea after 14 miles of swimming.

Anyway by this point we can clearly see the beach and its gradually getting closer. We continue to make our way until we finally get to Prouty, I swim until I am in about a foot of water at which point I have no choice but to stand up, slowly. I pass through the gates at 8hrs 36 mins and then head back to help James with his getting out of the kayak. I remember at this point I have not removed my Irish flag from my goggle strap, it has survived there the entire swim. James is unsurprisingly a little stiff and a little doped up, so I get him on to the beach and start cleaning out the kayak while trying not to mix the now "pee water bottle" (not as easy as past events for James to pee from the kayak so he had to improvise). I thank James profusely, I had told him before the race that if he needed us to call it, then to go ahead and do so, a swim would not replace his long term back health and there were many events for us to do in the future. But he persevered and we have future events to identify and turn up to, as is regularly stated OW swimming is a team sport.

The better halves pick us up about 30 mins after we finish, we return to our accommodation, clean up and then come back down to the beach in the evening for the award ceremony and BBQ. At this point we can relax and hang out with the many swim friends we have made over the last 5 years.

I should add for any sightseers that while I swam and James kayaked, the better halves did do some local sights with a trip to Quebec to a yarn store where they got a discount for travelling from Chicago and for what their respective husbands were doing (it is the yarn addiction that balances out against my swim costs). A trip was also made to the Ben and Jerry’s factory and I continue to hear about the much greater choice of ice cream at the local factory.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable swim, a new bench mark for me, a pretty state and worth the trip in many ways.



  • ssthomasssthomas DenverCharter Mem​ber

    You DO know there's a lake monster, right? Sounds like Memphre might have had something to do with your odd "jolting upright" moment. She likes to mess with swimmers, especially when their support crew is dopped out on painkillers (my husband did the double with me with similar back issues and a similar pee water bottle).

  • Copelj26Copelj26 ChicagoSenior Member

    @ssthomas I have heard rumors of a lake monster but was focused more on it eating me than playing games with me, but definitely a new consideration :)

  • ssthomasssthomas DenverCharter Mem​ber

    Oh, Memphre is a VERY playful Lake Monster. To my knowledge, she's never eaten anyone. She just likes to torment and tease us swimmers. The first person to cross the lake was Billy Conners. He tells a story of Memphre coming up from the depths and giving him a big ole kiss on the lips. She just likes to cause mischief! @Fil : What other fun stories are there of Memphre?

  • FilFil Derby, VTCharter Member

    My favorite is an account by Velma Coburn, who was out on the lake one night in 1974. I talked with Velma in 2012. She was 84 years old and was as clear-headed, bright-eyed, and pleasant as anyone I’ve ever met.  She had not discussed her experience outside her family but, at my request, decided to talk about the encounter which took place on July 4th, 1974.  She said the four of them were out on the lake by Owls Head late in the evening in their Chris Craft boat.  She doesn’t drink and the four were not drinking that night.  Velma provided me with a detailed, handwritten account by Duane, which he wrote up that night or the next day.  She said that she has kept this account all these years and it has only been disclosed to one other person outside the family prior to our meeting.  She described seeing what appeared to be the tail, up out of the water, and at another time she saw the creature’s head and eyes high out of the water.  The following is a transcription of Duane’s handwritten account:

    Time of sighting approx. 10:50 pm July 4th, 1974

    First sighting of anything unusual was a 30 ft streak of light underwater seen by Helena Hicks.  Two to three minutes later an unmoving object passed by starboard side of boat.  At this time, object resembled roughly the same and size of a blue heron being about five feet above water.  At this time, boat was cruising at about 1500 RPM or an estimated 15 MPH.  At this sighting, boat increased speed to an estimated 22 MPH while making a 180 degree turn and gave chase with object in spot light.  While giving chase, object looked more like a tail with either white or florescent stripe (^^^).  Object was chased in NW direction for two to three minutes.  Chase ended at this time as operator of boat realized he had become completely disoriented as to his exact location on lake and became concerned about rocks or other hazards.  At this time the boat came to a full stop and so did the object of the chase.

    At this time, neck, outline of back of head became visible in spot light.  The head was 6 to 8 feet above water, shaped similar to a bird or turtle as far as curve of back of head.  The head showed (it turned about 120 degrees to face us) two eyes 24” to 36” apart.  The eyes did not glow red as many animals in artificial light, they were a pale yellow or light green.  The head appeared to be about three feet wide (this was determined by the width of the eyes) and could not distinguish size or location of mouth, depth or length of head.  Neck was 12” to 18” thick and long like snake.  Probably black or dark brown in color.  Eyes were about the size of a baseball.

    At this time chase was completely abandoned.  The boat was turned SE and heading home.  Boat was doing about 17 or 18 MPH and object was following boat south and stayed about 200 yards to back of boat.  This lasted for 10 min.  Eyes were visible without spot light.  Only light in that direction was stern light.  Sighting concluded after 10 minutes of being followed.

                                                                                    /s/ Duane Coburn

    Velma gave me the original document so that I could copy it.  She agreed that it was time to disclose this information to the public, although she really didn’t want to talk to anyone else about her experience.

    There are over 170 reported sightings of Memphre since the first in 1816.

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